Cicada Tree

Cicada Tree


Photo credit: Vicky Lim Yen Ngoh

It is believed that the Cicada Tree (Ploiarium alternifolium) got its name after locals saw cicadas perched on this shrub. Native to Singapore, this plant can be found in secondary forests and near water bodies such as freshwater swamps and reservoirs.

It is a woody shrub or small tree that typically grows up to 15 m. In fact, plants growing in the river usually grows to 0.3 m while those in swamps on peaty soil can reach up to 30 m in height. When grown in swamps, large numbers of thin stilt roots emerge from the trunk to help anchor the tree in the soil.

When the wind blows, its glossy red-edge leaves dance and move like fingers! The leaves are densely arranged in a sprial formation along the branches. The tree has light pink-tipped 2.5 to 3 cm-wide star-shaped white flowers that attract bees, butterflies and birds. 

The fruit has five-valved capsules, turning dark purple when ripe. It contains many tiny, slender and elongate seeds that are released when the fruit splits open like an umbrella when ripe.

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